Blazing a triathlon trail: Dan Martin

24 11 2009

Some people think outside the box. TEDxBrussels promised to burn the box but forgot to light it. Dan Martin intends to swim, cycle and run the box around the world. Seriously.

At high tide on May 8th 2010 I’ll dive in to the Hudson River from Battery Park in New York. I’ll swim down stream past the Statue of Liberty and across the Atlantic to Brest in France. I’ll be swimming eight hours a day, no wetsuit, no shark cage. When I touch the boat at night we will GPS mark the spot I finish and start from there the next day.

From Brest I’ll cycle east through Europe and across Russia. Pedalling through Siberia in winter and then crossing the Bering Straits when they’re (partially) frozen from Uelen to Cape Wales. The Bering Strait will be by far the most dangerous and challenging part of the trip. I’ll essentially be manhauling me and a floating sled across 50miles of slush ice and strong currents mainly in the dark.

From Cape Wales in Alaska I’ll run to New York finishing with a New York Marathon in November 2011.

What could possibly go wrong?

Dan, I wish you the best and will try to support you any way I can.

The road to recovery: swim, cycle, blog

8 11 2009

Hamstring tear or not, I’m working out. Swam 30′ pain free minutes on Friday and made a half-hearted attempt at aquajogging. I’m sure it is an excellent post-op recovery method, Wikipedia, but you look like a doofus out there (lexical hat tip to Sandy W.). On Saturday, I cycled. For an hour. I. Love. My. Bike. Will go for a longer ride today and try to resume jogging on Monday.

Picture taken from the brilliant website.

“Retüling” my aero position

15 09 2009

Did the unthinkable this morning: took a break from writing and drove to near Aalst to have my optimal aero position “retüled”. Shop owner John – a former amateur cyclist turned amateur triathlete – is Belgium’s first qualified Retül fitter. Retül brings 3D motion capture to bikefitting. It is a very accurate, tech-heavy and transparent method for establishing optimal cycling position. Costs a pretty penny, too.

The protocol works like this: following a brief intake interview, motion detection markers are attached to your wrist, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, ankle and foot. Two cameras then record your pedal stroke. This allows for very accurate, dynamic measurements of cycling biomechanics. For instance, in the video below, you can see that my right leg pedal stroke is slightly irregular in comparison to my left leg pedal stroke (which is perfectly horizontal).

In the end, your measurements are translated into an optimal aero position. Here is the before and after video. The top frame mirrors the bike position I had during my LD debut in Brasschaat. Notice the more compact, relaxed bike fit in the bottom frame.

Belgians are of two physical types

29 08 2009

Having tossed me this personal-narrative bone, van Lierde strips down to his swimsuit. The Belgians, it has been said, are of two distinct physical types: the ample, rosy burghers famously depicted by Rubens, and the wraithlike subjects of van Gogh. Stomping around in rubber boots, complacently hosing down the pool deck, Damien van Houck appears pure Rubens. Lean and rope-muscled, his hair a severe black skullcap, van Lierde seems van Gogh to the core.

John Brant profiles Luc Van Lierde in Outside Magazine, November 1997.

A boy amongst men: Alistair Brownlee

15 08 2009

I have just witnessed the coming of age of Alistair Brownlee at the London ITU Olympic distance triathlon. He won the race in a blistering 1:41:50, his fourth consecutive ITU win. Phenomenal. How he manages to squeeze out that kind of power from his 11-year-old physique is beyond me.

Don’t forget to pick up your jaw

7 08 2009

675 posts and more than 51,000 hits later, the two top posts on this blog have one brand in common: Wilier. With 2,239 pageviews, the 2008 Wilier Izoard. Clocking in at 1,291 pageviews, the 2009 Wilier Cunego Cento1. Introducing, the 2010 Wilier Imperiale Carbon Red. Wilier is to road bikes what Megan Fox is to men. Just look at those curves. I rest my case.

2010 Wilier Imperiale carbonred[H/T:]

Race report: 2009 Brasschaat ITU LD

30 06 2009

I made my long distance debut this weekend at the 2009 Brasschaat ITU LD event. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so ecstatic, exhausted and, above all, sore. Here are a few things I’ve learned:

* Overall: triathlon is the single most rewarding sport in the world: 3 basic discplines, 1 huge adrenaline rush, more than 8000 calories burned, 4 cramps suffered, 1 clenched fist when crossing the finish line. A priceless experience.

* Rookie mistake made during the bike leg: not enough food intake. Capital error. During the first run loop, I couldn’t remember my own name. Next time, I’m packing food like this athlete:


* Random observations: energy gels taste like feet but they do help. So does good ol’ Coca Cola. My favorite brand of race nutrition = Squeezy energy fruit gums. Eating bananas on the bike at full speed is not a pretty sight. Memo to self: never race in white Skinfit tri pants.

* The women’s overall winner, Sofie Goos,  gave me a serious cold by literally flying by me during the run. Impressive race, Sofie.


* Pictured below is Koen Hoeyberghs seconds after crossing the finishing line. At age 43, Koen is triathlon nobility in Belgium. He placed 5th overall. In the picture he looks like he went for a stroll. I bow humbly.


* By way of comparison, this is how I looked during the run. Notice any difference?


* For the record, here are my splits:

swim: 2700m in 0:42:27 (91st AG, 170th overall)
bike: 80km in 2:08:32 (73rd AG, 128th overall)
run: 20km in 1:48:10 (144th AG, 282nd overall)

Total: 4:41:51 (114th AG (192 finishers), 197th overall (417 finishers))
Complete results available here (.pdf)

* Conclusion: this was the best athletic experience I have ever had. Perfect setting and race organization, great value for money, lovely weather and atmosphere. Well-refereed too. I’d do this again in heartbeat.

* Thank you: Wendy & Jerre, Luc & Annick, Jim De Sitter, Marc Pollet, the race organizers and the countless aid station volunteers. I never meant to dose you.

2009 ITU Brasschaat Long Distance

15 06 2009

I’m looking forward to my first long distance triathlon: a 2700m swim, 80k bike and 20k foot race in Brasschaat. This race is a Flemish classic but will disappear from the race calendar as the organizers have chosen to go to the Olympic distance format from 2010 onwards.

Track bike handling holy cowery

15 06 2009


Some form of back-pack will be required

1 06 2009

May has been and June promises to be an irregular training month for me. I may start in the Olympic distance race in Bruges, but racing the half distance in Brasschaat with little to no training seems pointless. And so, with one eye on my PhD and the other my race calendar, I came across an unusual race.

In an interview with Slowtwitch, ITU WCS Madrid winner Alistair Brownlee mentioned the Helvellyn Triathlon. This race is set in scenic Cumbria, on Sunday September 6th 2009 and the course offers a challenging

1 mile swim in Ullswater – England’s most beautiful lake
38 miles cycle – including the Kirkstone Pass (pictured)
9 miles run up Helvellyn – 3118 feet (England’s 3rd highest peak)

I am new to fell running and don’t quite know what to make of this rule (a whistle?):

The weather on the fells even in mid summer can be poor and the tops could well be in cloud. You will not be allowed out of the bike/run transition without full body cover weather proof clothing, map of the route, compass, whistle and suitable footwear for a fell run. Some form of back-pack will be required.